Zimplats calls for urgent dialogue over seized platinum land

By: 
Miningmx.com

Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa

IMPALA Platinum's Zimplats, is fighting the government's decision to take over nearly 28,000 hectares of platinum-bearing land and has requested dialogue with authorities in Harare, it has said.

The company would also hold negotiations over the new indigenisation compliance deadline which had been set for the end of March. Indigenisation is the country’s policy to 'sell' control of businesses operating in the country to locals.

"On 28 December 2015, the Government of Zimbabwe wrote to the operating subsidiary requesting the release of the 27,948 hectares of ground referred to in the preliminary notice that was issued on 1 March 2013," Zimplats said in a statement.

"The operating subsidiary responded to the Government of Zimbabwe reiterating its previous position and also seeking constructive dialogue in an endeavour to resolve the matter amicably," it added.

In 2013, the government gazetted the takeover of about half of the company’s land claims, arguing that these would be given to new investors.

The gazette gave notice to Zimplats to either claim compensation or appeal the decision, but Zimbabwe's former mines minister, Obert Mpofu, had said that the land would be taken over.

Zimplats lodged an appeal objecting this decision on March 27, 2013 and the issue had been under consideration until in December last year when the government wrote a letter requesting that Zimplats give up the land.

"We are awaiting their [Zimplats'] response but we have been clear from the onset that land that is not utilised should be given to other investors to utilise. This is in pursuit to the government’s use it or lose it policy regarding mineral claims,” said an official on Friday.

Mines Minister, Walter Chidakwa was not immediately available.

He however, told mining executives on January 28 this year that he was aware of the issues that mining firms were facing and that his ministry was bringing to parliament pieces of legislation aimed at addressing those issues. He was also engaging the finance minister over fees and royalties paid by mining companies, he said.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) had also delayed approval of Zimplats' bid to transfer 10% of its shares into an employee share ownership scheme in pursuit of compliance with indigenisation following the replacement of the minister responsible.

New indigenisation minister, Patrick Zhuwawo, also nephew to President Robert Mugabe, set a March deadline for all foreign companies in Zimbabwe to submit indigenisation compliance plans or risk being levied a tax.

"The RBZ, in December 2015, advised the company that it had deferred making a decision on the matter until the Government of Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment had finalised and announced the new indigenisation implementation modalities which that ministry was working on at the time," said Zimplats.

It said that it was still studying the implications of new indigenisation guidelines issued by Zhuwawo on January 8 and how they impacted on the planned disposal of a 10% stake to an employee share ownership scheme.

"The company will be engaging the Government further on the matter."

The dispute between Zimplats and the Zimbabwean government comes amid a mining business confidence index published by Zimbabwe's Chamber of Mines showed that mining investors in the mineral rich southern African country are more concerned about the political and policy framework than normal business risks.

The mining industry survey report showed that there have been no new platinum mining projects that are operation besides Zimplats, Unki and Mimosa.

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